My most memorable moments are spent with my good friends from various races. When I am together with my friends, I always get stares from the people on the street. Sometimes, certain people might even pass snide comments about my group of friends. One man with jet black cropped hair commented sarcastically when we walked in his direction, “United Nations in Singapore? How ‘colourful’.” What followed his comment was a roar of laughter from people around him. My good friends do seem to make up the United Nations. Each of my friends belonged to the 4 major races in Singapore. Therefore our skin colours are naturally 4 different colours. Yet, these cutting comments never got us down as my most memorable moments are spent with them. I appreciate the fact that I had a chance to have good friends from different races.
As all my good friends are from different races, I had the opportunity to learn something new every day. The most memorable moment I spent with my friends was during the Chinese New Year celebrations a few years ago. I remembered my good friend, Hui Ying, invited all of us to her house for celebrations. On that very day, I learned so many different things about the cultures of the various races. “Welcome In! Happy Chinese New Year!” Hui Ying cried out cheerily as she saw the vivid shades of colours at her doorstep. Coming from a traditional Chinese family, my parents were very particular about having me wear a cheongsam on the first day of the lunar New year. As usual, Christine was in her washed-out jeans and t-shirt. Being a Eurasian, she constantly complained about her ‘identity crisis’.
Having a Caucasian father and Singaporean mother, she never knew exactly which culture to follow. Therefore, she was always dressed in casual wear. However, Devi was in her favourite purple sari while Siti was in her lime green baju. We stepped into Hui Ying’s modest HDB flat. “What’s with the decoration?” Christine asked casually, gazing wide-eyed around the house. On the off-white walls, Chinese good luck couplets were hung in pairs, while red lanterns dangled overheads. I began to explain to Christine and the rest how it was supposed to bring good luck for the new year and also helps to create a festive mood. Devi adds by saying that on Deepavali, her family would draw designs outside of her home to ward of evil. Siti also explained that on Hari Raya, her family would also hang ketupats around her house.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $14
Prices start at $12
Hui Ying’s mother then approached us, her hands clutching something red. My eyes gleamed in joy as the dollar signs started ringing in my head. All 4 of us chorused in unison, “Thank you, Auntie! Have a good year ahead!” Hui Ying’s mother let out a tinkling laugh and handed us the red packets. Siti then took Hui Ying’s mother’s hand and shook it. After that, she used the same hand and touched her heart. Devi and I glanced quizzically at each other and looked over at Christine. Christine merely shrugged and displayed a confused expression. Later, we learnt that Siti was showing her respect and thanks to Hui Ying’s mother. It was in their tradition to pay respects to their elders in such a manner.
We then gathered around Hui Ying’s dining table for a little feast. Delicious, glorious food! We immediately tucked into pineapple tarts, melon seed, biscuits, sweets. A discussion of the various types of food we got to try during our traditional festival. Suddenly, I was opened to this whole new world as I learnt about the different delicacies offered by the different races. Even Christine had words of wisdom to offer. She started to recount the time when she spent Christmas in New York with her family. She explained to us the tradition of drinking eggnog. All of us were so engaged in the conversations of our different cultures; I hardly noticed that it was nearly time for us to leave. We even finished all of the food Hui Ying’s mother prepared for her other guests!
As I headed to my next destination, I started to reflect on our little “outing.” I had always felt uncomfortable when strangers on the street stare at us quizzically. It seemed as if it is a strange sight to see people of different races being good friends. However, I realize that it was actually a good thing that people from different races become good friends. In our interaction with one another, we learn to tolerate and understand the beliefs and customs of other races. With so much fighting going on in this current world, I think it is essential for everyone to learn about racial understanding and tolerance. If people could start to see what is on the inside and judge a person by the colour of its skin, perhaps this world might be a much better place! My most memorable moments would always be with my good friends from various races as I always get to have fun and learn something new when I am with them.
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